The Slit ligands and their Robo receptors are well-known for their roles during axon guidance in the central nervous system but are still relatively unknown in the cardiac field. However, data from different animal models suggest a broad involvement of the pathway in many aspects of heart development, from cardiac cell migration and alignment, lumen formation, chamber formation, to the formation of the ventricular septum, semilunar and atrioventricular valves, caval veins, and pericardium. Absence of one or more of the genes in the pathway results in defects ranging from bicuspid aortic valves to ventricular septal defects and abnormal venous connections to the heart. Congenital heart defects are the most common congenital malformations found in life new-born babies and progress in methods for large scale human genetic testing has significantly enhanced the identification of new causative genes involved in human congenital heart disease. Recently, loss of function variants in ROBO1 have also been linked to ventricular septal defects and tetralogy of Fallot in patients. Here, we will give an overview of the role of the Slit-Robo signalling pathway in Drosophila, zebrafish, and mouse heart development. The extent of these data warrant further attention on the SLIT-ROBO signalling pathway as a candidate for an array of human congenital heart defects.
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